The 2022 session of the Colorado General Assembly kicked off earlier this month, and before the opening gavel even sounded the Republican mini-minority in the House signaled that the session was not going to be characterized by bipartisan good will. Hosted by Denver talk radio junior varsity commentator Jimmy Sengenberger for a pre-session interview, House Minority Leader Hugh McKean claimed that Democrats in the majority “have been just raping the people of Colorado” with fees and taxes–an analogy that drew fierce condemnation from Sen. Faith Winter, and prompted Rep. Matt Gray to walk out of the House chamber in protest during McKean’s opening remarks.
Reached a few days later, McKean attempted to defend himself by citing a dictionary definition of the word “rape,” which in some arcane usage apparently can also mean to rob someone. The problem, of course, is that no one speaking modern American English uses the word “rape” to describe anything other than sexual assault. McKean’s insistence that he meant “rape” in this arcane alternative sense with no intention to make an analogy to sexual assault is ridiculous on its face. All that would be necessary for McKean to say here is that he understands how it could be taken offensively and apologize to anyone who did.
But McKean can’t do it. He is compelled to “own the libs.”
Yesterday, Pat Poblete of the Colorado Springs Gazette’s political blog published an in-depth interview with McKean, and tried once again to get a decent answer about this controversy with the benefit of hindsight. And Minority Leader McKean, with a golden opportunity to put this gaffe behind him, make it even worse:
CP: I did want to put it in front of you what’s been reverberating in the political sphere, which is some of the language you chose to use in your radio interview with Jimmy Sengenberger. When talking about Democrats imposing fees, you describe that in part as “raping people of Colorado.” Do you think it’s appropriate for political leaders to use that type of language to describe what is essentially a fiscal policy decision, and then compared it to a violent crime?
McKean: So, number one, I think you need to define that. So, other people have attempted to put words in my mouth on that. And especially state Senate Faith Winter said that, as a victim of sexual assault, she really started ginning that up. [Pols emphasis] First of all, there are several meanings to that word and one meaning is a sexual assault, not meant by me whatsoever…
In McKean’s retelling, the problem is not accusing Democrats of “raping the people of Colorado.” The real problem is some pesky state senator, “a victim of sexual assault,” “ginning that up!”
We’ll give you a moment to pick your jaw up off the floor as Poblete at the Gazette gamely tries again:
CP: I understand what you’re saying but that doesn’t seem to be the way that a majority of society understands the word rape. [Pols emphasis] And it seems like when you say Sen. Winter could have picked up the phone and called you and resolved it — at the same time, you could have also used a different strong word to describe what clearly is an issue here.
McKean: I don’t disagree that there are other words I could use. However, I think that this is really the challenge we face when we’re trying to talk about some of these pretty big issues — it’s how to form them and form our arguments in a way that describes exactly what we’re trying to say. [Pols emphasis]
Shorter Hugh McKean: “You’re damn right I used the word ‘rape’ and I’ll do it again.”
The only reason we can think of why McKean is so steadfastly unrepentant over what would from a person with any decency quickly result in a simple and direct apology is simple: McKean cannot show any weakness toward the Democratic majority without risking another plot against his leadership position from the far right.
And so here we are, folks. The lowest common denominator in our political discourse just went a little lower.